Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review- Alice I Have Been

My two cats, Mollie and Dinah. Dinah is the fat one on the left; Mollie is on the right.

I have a thing with Alice in Wonderland. I didn't watch it much as a child, but as soon as it was re-released, I claimed my DVD copy and wouldn't let go. I had a beautiful blue and white sundress that I called my Alice dress and I wore it to the premier of the most recent (and horrible) rendition of the story. I've read both books (the first was my favorite) and can quote the movie with ease. I even named one of my cats after Alice's cat; only a few people have recognized the reference, which is a little disappointing, I won't lie.

So, when I saw a work of fiction about the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's beloved story, I was intrigued. I always figured that the inspiration was an unknown, common child- one of the many children Lewis Carroll came into contact with. And I was wrong. WAY wrong. I always knew Alice in Wonderland was written by a math professor, but I had no clue how many of the characters were based on real people (and not political satire, as so many people like to say). I also had no idea about the serious controversy between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell Hargreaves, his inspiration.

While I certainly agree that Melanie Benjamin picked an interesting topic to write a work of fiction on, I don't agree with how she presented it. No one wants to think a beloved children's author could have been too close to his child-muse, however, the information Benjamin presents both in her novel and its afterward, as well as research I did on my own, suggests that it could entirely be possible. However, Benjamin turned several other aspects of Alice's life into similar situations. I really liked how Benjamin presented Alice during her "muse years"- she really did seem like the Alice we all know and love. However, I felt like the change between young Alice and "mature" Alice was too drastic, and disappointing- I really wanted to see her maintain her spunk and curiosity about life throughout her life, rather than turn into a whiny and bitter woman.

I felt like it was a personal interest in the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves rather than the writing style of Melanie Benjamin that kept me interested in the story. To be honest, I skipped several pages (about 30 or so) and felt like I did not miss much of the story when I did. I doubt I will recommend this book to anyone, but if you are looking for a quick read with an interesting factual basis, this book might just be for you.

If you are interested in the book, here is a link:

I also encourage you to check out Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell Hargreaves on Wikipedia- especially take a look at Alice, as her personal life is very interesting and it is interesting to be able to see what the muse actually looked like.

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